Pictures from Vermont--look at in conjunction with yesterday's post

The Montpelier Farmer's Market. Aaron took the picture which is why it's an aerial shot.

Here we are enjoying a delicious cider doughnut, fresh from the deep fryer. They aren't glazed or sugared, so I think they'd lose a little something if they got cold, but hot they were fantastic.

Ben & Jerry's! I ate waaaaay too much ice cream in one sitting, but it was delicious. I think Aaron's flavor was slightly more delicious than mine: he had the 30th anniversary birthday cake ice cream, which was yellow cake batter and a chocolate frosting swirl.


Live blogging from Vermontpelier, or Montpeculiar

I'm in Vermont this weekend visiting Aaron and Mary--a trip that is probably one of my last, if not my last, of this pregnancy. Vermont is a beautiful state, and Montpelier is ridiculously cute. It's like what all the cute neighborhoods in other cities--Hillsboro Village or Little Five Points in Nashville, Five Points in Atlanta--are trying to be. Except the whole town is that way--walkable, with locally-owned stores crowded together, bookstores, diners that serve all locally-grown organic foods, bakeries and restaurants run by the culinary institute where Mary is a student, independent art movie theaters.

We've been eating outstanding food since I got here. Last night Aaron and I had dinner at one of the aforementioned culinary school restaurants. Today we had brunch at the organic local-food diner, then went to the Farmer's Market where I couldn't resist trying all the free samples of things like farmer's cheese from a dairy down the road. Mary gave me a bite of a nasturtium, which was surprisingly tasty (she bought a few to grow for salads). Even though we were all so full we thought we'd throw up, we split a dopyaza--a delicious Pakistani hot pocket filled with crispy, fresh, hot veggies, that are for sale there every weekend.

Later, after we dropped Mary off at work, we went to a cider press where we got fresh doughnuts, then we did the Ben & Jerry's factory tour! Sadly, I can't post pictures right now, but I'll try to do it later. I had the world's largest ice cream cone of a new flavor called "seven layer coconut bar," or something. I don't know what we're going to eat tonight, but I'm sure it'll be fantastic, and organic, and good to the environment, and locally-grown, and everything associated with it will be recycled, and all the employees will be paid a living wage.

It's a good thing that Biffle didn't come with me this weekend, because I'm not sure I'd be able to convince him to go back to Charleston.


Thoughts from NWSA 2008

I've just returned from the National Women's Studies Association's 2008 conference. I had a great time catching up with my brilliant scholarly friends from around North America and participating in what I think will be some of the originating moments of the NWSA as the leading organization in the country for the academic work of Women's (and Gender) Studies. Mark my words! We've had our problems in the past, but we are going to be a respectable scholarly organization on par with the American Studies Association!

I'm not going to offer substantive thoughts on the conference just now. I might be inspired to do this at some point, but I'm an officer in the NWSA and fairly easily identifiable (it's easier to dish when you're anonymous, as some bloggers have done), so for today I'm going to share random moments from my travels.

  • Airsickness bags used: one (apparently I'm not a great air traveler now that I'm pregnant. On the way to Cincinnati I ate a box of Crunch and Munch and then threw it all back up while the stranger sitting next to me pretended to be interested in what was happening outside the window.)
  • "Thank God for the cervix!" --one of my conference friends at the dance, upon seeing me flinging my body around the dance floor (which I could only do for three songs before I became exhausted and had to sit down.)
  • People I met whose books are sitting on my desk right now: two (Patricia Hill Collins and Chela Sandoval).
  • People I hung out with who I'm quoting in my upcoming book: three (Astrid Henry, Lisa Johnson, and Heather Hewett).
  • "We should all be our own vibe monitors." --from a Governing Council meeting in which someone suggested reinstating the now defunct position of "vibe monitor"--an honest-to-God position that the NWSA has had at various public meetings, and a position which, for obvious reasons, works against our efforts to be a respectable scholarly organization.
  • New academic crushes developed: one (Beverly Guy Sheftall, incoming president of the NWSA)
  • Books purchased: zero (Biffle and I are now trying to save up for the wood studio he'll be building in our backyard, which I'm sure he'll tell you about at some point.)



For my fortieth birthday post i wrote about some survival-ish type things i think i do well. One of the things i did not implicitly include on that list is a talent at making things dead. You know: leaving a plant to die, killing and butchering livestock, euthanasia.
Those things weren't on that list because i suck at them. That's bad because killing and/or death is just part of the daily events in a subsistence type of lifestyle.

I remember one time my grandfather summarily dispatching all but one from a litter of kittens. He'd lived within a hundred yards of his birth place for 80 years and he knew exactly how many cats he needed for things to operate correctly around there. One day while trying to drill a hole in any one of the random things that need drilling on a farm , a wasp kept pestering him. He squashed that wasp with his thumb. He shot things that tried to get in the hen house, he rung the necks of chicks, opened the jugulars of large pigs.

I thought of him yesterday when i discovered the bird in the backyard.

I went out into the yard yesterday to hang some clothes on the line and found the ground littered with feathers. Cats--and i'm assuming our cats--had mutilated a pigeon. From the number of feathers laying around i figured it was already dead and hoped that they hadn't pulled it under the house to get all stinky and stuff. I didn't see it anywhere and so went on about my hanging. And then i saw it: half a wing gone, it sat on the ground there in front of me stunned, but very much among the living. The pigeon--a Ring-Necked Pigeon--flapped away from me when i tried to inspect it, but i could tell that it wasn't really going to be recovering from what had happened. I knew i had to kill it.

Once, back when i was living at the Craft Center, me and Justin and Cute Paul off-ed a squirrel that had got caught in some bird lime. That time, we just put the squirrel in a shoe box, taped the box shut, cut a small hole in the side and held it to the exhaust of a car. The squirrel was dead in a matter of thirty seconds or so. I thought about doing the bird the same way, but for some reason didn't. Instead i came inside and googled "how to euthanize a bird." Among the many suggestions, it started with holding the bird in your hands, grasping the head firmly in between your thumb and first finger...it went on and explained how the sound was unsettling to some people, how some people had the sensation of life leaving another's body. Gee whiz, man.

Anyhow, although i tried as best i could to summon the existential acceptance concerning life's passage here on earth embodied in my farm-dwelling ancestors, i just couldn't bring myself to hold that bird in my hands and snap its neck. I opted for the second plan suggested by the web site:

I went outside and i caught the bird in a light-weight bag--the kind they might give you at some sort of conference as a gift/way to carry around all your instructions. The bag had long-ish handles on it. I swooped up the bird in the bag and vigorously swung it around in a wide wide circle. At the last second i gave the bag (and bird) a really good flick of the wrist and sent it to a dead stop against the side of a Pecan tree. When the bag hit the tree it said *thuck*. While i probably should have checked on the condition of the bird immediately, i opted instead to kind of randomly run around in circles and shake my hands while saying "euuuuwwwwghhh! awwwweeehhh!!!"

Finished with that, i looked in the bag and found that the bird was indeed as dead as a coffin nail.


Pregnancy stereotypes

I often accuse Biffle of having oppositional defiant disorder--he sometimes seems to oppose things just for the sake of being able to argue--but I am recognizing my own tendencies in this direction when it comes to the stereotypes surrounding pregnancy. I am defiantly opposed to them--a kind of knee-jerk reaction--regardless of their validity or innocuousness. This is probably pathological. See what you think.

I've enjoyed the extra edge pregnancy seems to have given me, the willingness to be angry or irritable, but I have assiduously resisted any other emotional reactions to being pregnant. On the occasions when I've found myself getting teary (watching a Humane Society commercial, for instance, or the film The Business of Being Born), I clamp it down. I am not going to be the weepy pregnant woman.

Another example: I got a great haircut this week, but every time Biffle suggested that it was a Mom haircut, I was deeply offended. Let's be clear:

This is a mom haircut:

This is not:

Ian suggested nesting as a pregnancy stereotype that our shopping expedition to Ikea would seem to uphold. Yes, we did buy some baby stuff, but I don't think I adhere to any of the other nesting qualities--I am a complete slob who doesn't clean, organize, or improve the house. That is all Biffle. Case in point: He's outside right now sweeping grass clippings off the sidewalk he built out of bricks with his own hands. What am I doing? Blogging.

Even the need for extra rest--which isn't probably a stereotype so much as it is a biological imperative--I resist.

Let's be honest here: there's really nothing wrong with someone being emotional, getting a practical haircut, cleaning house, or resting--whether that person is pregnant or not. Clearly I have got a problem.

Here's one more example that should prove this. My therapist yesterday told me a story about Pat Summitt, head coach of the award-winning Lady Vols basketball team. When she was near the end of her pregnancy with one of her children, she was on a recruiting trip. She was at the home of a potential Lady Vol when she went into labor. She excused herself and called her doctor, who told her to hop on her private plane and come back home. She didn't; instead, she continued with the recruiting visit, checking in periodically with her doctor, until she'd finished with her professional obligations. Only then did she fly back home to the hospital.

My therapist told me this as a kind of warning story--don't be like Pat Summitt! My response, however, was, Right on. Nobody can use her as an example of why women shouldn't be Presidents, or CEOs.

It occurs to me that one stereotype I maybe haven't fully deconstructed in my own mind is the Superwoman.


Buying a crib, and other thoughts on impending parenthood

Biffle and I spent the weekend in Atlanta, visiting the Ikea to load up on stuff for the house. The main thing we bought was a giant wardrobe unit--nearly 12' x 8'--so that we can get rid of the array of weird and only vaguely functional bedroom furniture we've collected or inherited or found on the side of the road over the years. (Please don't assume that this comment is meant in any way to disparage furniture found on the side of the road--Biffle has done some amazing things with other people's rejected furniture.)

We also bought a crib--this one--and some of Ikea's ridiculously cute, random stuff for a baby's room. There are certain aspects of this whole pregnancy/impending parenthood process that are freaky for me, and buying a crib was one of them. I kept saying, "Biffle, we're buying a crib. Did you ever think we'd be buying a crib?" He seemed unbothered. But to me the crib represented something--a piece of furniture, solid and material, in our house, is different than the baby clothes and knitting people have given us. Maybe it's that the clothes seem fun, playful, while the crib is Serious Business. When you have a crib, it means you are Having a Baby.

Not that this is a surprise to me, given the way I look these days.

Speaking of which, that's another thing that has been occasionally freaky to me. When I was in Tennessee a couple of weeks ago, Megan asked if Biffle had been taking any artsy pregnant photos of me. He hasn't. For a while there we were taking a picture every Sunday night, to document the progress, but when I really started to show we got lax and stopped taking the pictures--I think because the progress was so evident to us at that point. So when I got back home, Biffle did try to capture one representative--and perhaps artsy--moment of me standing in the kitchen, eating a bowl of cold cereal (one of 12,000 bowls of cold cereal I've eaten so far in this pregnancy).

Here's the picture. When I saw it for the first time, I thought, "Oh my god, there's me in a pregnant suit." It looks just like me, only pregnant. The thing that freaks me out is not the size issue--I know some women do feel weird about getting larger, since we're in a society that relentlessly tells us to slim down--but that I actually look so pregnant. Unambiguously pregnant. Now I'm at the point where people take one look and congratulate me.

So why does it weird me out that I'm looking pregnant? Perhaps because this is more unambiguous evidence that things are changing. Even if I do eventually get my pre-pregnancy body back, things--as people with children regularly remind me--will never be the same again.

And, of course, this is what we wanted. If we'd wanted things to stay the way they were, there were plenty of ways we could have helped that to happen, and procreating wouldn't have been our game plan. But actually facing the changes, for someone like me who is so wary of change, can be a bit freaky.

Later on, if you want, I'll blog about my efforts to resist all stereotypes of pregnant womanhood.


Hating Obama is not feminist

I have some pregnancy thoughts to share with you soon, but right now I want to weigh in on a political issue that's bothering me. Now that Obama has the Democratic nomination, there are apparently women--some of them feminists, the vast majority of them white (I feel quite certain)--saying that they'll vote for McCain rather than for Obama. In today's Washington Post, one Clinton supporter was quoted as saying, "I would die and slit my wrists before I would vote for Obama."

I would just like to put it out here, publicly, that people in the world are allowed to have whatever stupid opinions they'd like to have, but this particular opinion doesn't represent feminism.

I am a feminist, and I was a Hillary supporter. Biffle is a feminist, and he's been for Obama almost from the start. We'll both have an Obama sign in our yard soon (this will be my doing--Biffle's not big on signs) and will campaign enthusiastically for him. The media loves to find people willing to say outrageous things, but neither Koryne Horbel nor the anonymous (and not very articulate) Clinton supporter quoted above represents our feminism.


This Land is My Land, This Land is My Land

Well, a friend of mine and i played a gig last night at a place called Wild Dunes, "a private, relaxed and engaging community located along the northern edge of Isle of Palms."

Like so many other places around here, Wild Dunes is a gated community. A person has to stop at a guard shack before entering and pick up a permission slip allowing you to be there. Unlike Kiawah, however, you don't actually have to report where you're going or how long you'll be there. Once you pass that first test at Wild Dunes, you're good to go. WhooHoo!

Wild Dunes has been in the local news quite a bit over the past few years because it's washing away into the ocean. The reason for this, of course, is because it was built on sand dunes. Hence the name. The people of Wild Dunes--and i'm not sure by saying "people of Wild Dunes" i mean people-that-actually-live-there, or i mean administrators-paid-to-perform-community-oriented-tasks-usually-associated-with-"living somewhere"--have been piling up sand bags on what's left of the beach to stop the ocean from washing away their homes.

The sand bag thing has proven to be a real problem, too. The ocean--what with it's penchant to always be moving and everything--has been tearing up the sandbags. When this happens, the sand simply falls to the ground (no problem), but the bags themselves wash out into the sea and cause problems for things that live out there. This ostensibly doesn't sit well with some sort of larger city, or state, or federal board, who additionally refuse to allow the "people of Wild Dunes" to commence the 10 million dollar dredging and beach re-nourishment program that would help stop the natural and 11 trillion year old process of erosion.

Anyway, i was being paid to stand in a little amphitheater with my friend and provide live music to anyone that happened to stroll by. This, of course, was meant to recreate what might happen in a less-managed society: you know, two buddies decide to sit in a park and play their guitars. Passersby are welcome to come and enjoy. They were having to pay me because musicians that might actually sit in a park and play guitar cannot afford to live somewhere like Wild Dunes. Neither can police officers, fire fighters, bellhops, the guy that got me an extension cord, or the person that gave us our permission slip at the guard shack.

Mostly, we were playing for kids. Fortunately we were told beforehand that would be the case and came prepared. We had with us a few percussion instruments to hand out and allow our smaller audience members to play along. Three year old Meg, for instance, shook the Egg. (I had a good time with that one.) However, she would shake and shake until it was her turn to take a solo, and then she would resolutely refuse to shake a note. So during Mama Don't 'low, Meg would shake with all her might until we would get to part that says "we don't care what mama don't 'low, Meg's gonna shake that egg anyhow" and then...crickets. Meg later told me that she was having problems because she liked her white beach house much better than this one. I cut her some slack.

So we played lots of songs suitable for children. That's the reason i figured my partner started singing Woody Guthrie's This Land is Your Land, a folk song considered by many to be kid-like, but actually a cynical masterpiece written in response to God Bless America. I wasn't even really thinking about the irony until my friend started singing the not-quite-so-well-known "tress passin" verse:

as i was walking, i saw a sign there
and that sign said, no tress passin
but on the other side, it didn't say nothin!
now that side was made for you and me.



Children, children

shouting on the playground
sharpening their teeth at play
like a tiger, going for the take down
animal in every way...

So goes the third and last verse of the song Neighbors by the duet, Kill Henry Sugar. I gotta tell ya, i'm smitten. The two guys in Kill Henry Sugar are in the road band for Joan Baez, with whom they made a recent stop here in Charleston.

Here's the deal: Some friends of mine--John and Hazel--run a music school here in town called Hungry Monks. It's where i teach banjo lessons. Hungry Monks is not only set up as a music school, but also offers cool stuff like Rock Camp and Bluegrass Camp and stuff for kids and adults. They also have a stage there where, in the stodgy, less hip times of yore, "recitals" would have taken place. Well, here lately they've been getting these random calls from musicians traveling through town that want to play on this stage. Kill Henry Sugar was one of the bands that called and asked if they could play a show there.

Stupidly, i missed their performance, but John was nice enough to supply me with a cd of theirs and man, am i in love.